Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's been a hectic three weeks. There have been screenings for New Directors/New Films: i've tried to see as many films as possible. So far, i've seen fifteen of the films, and there are two more days left of press screenings. There have also been movies which opened, which i saw a while ago, most specifically Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata" and Jan Troell's "Everlasting Moments" and Matteo Garrone's "Gomorrah".

In the news: about three hours ago, an official statement was issued. Natasha Richardson is dead. The actual cause is still to be determined (she fell during a skiing lesson; was it head trauma? an aneurysm?) but it's very sad.

In terms of the AIG bonus mess: well, Congress is now acting all angry and upset... except that Senator Dodd masterminded the AIG deal which included a codicil for the bonuses in the federal bailout deal. Now that the public is outraged, these senators and congressmen (who were all in the pay of Wall Street in the first place) are trying to act like they're shocked, shocked to find out this has happened. (Anderson Cooper had the funniest line about this, he said that the congressmen are acting like Claude Rains in "Casablanca", who's shocked, shocked to find out that there's gambling going on at Rick's, while pocketing his winnings.) Really, it's time to get rid of the bums, not just the AIG management (fire 'em all and take back the money and leave 'em broke) but the damned senators and congressmen!

A list of the films seen at New Directors/New Films: "Stay the Same, Never Change", "Barking Water", "Mukha", "Every Little Step", "La Nana", "Treeless Mountain", "Suspended" (short), "The Shaft", "La Copie de Coralie" (short), "Unmade Beds", "Killer" (short), "Ordinary Boys", "Louise-Michel", "$9.99", "The Cove", "Home", "Releve" (short), "Donne-Moi la Main", "We Live in Public".

But before i really get into New Directors, i wanted to try to write a little something about "Everlasting Moments", which is a truly remarkable film, but one that is (certainly at this time) so anomalous that it requires some explanation. And i don't think it's gotten that explanation (though it did get a lot of favorable reviews).

I'll start with this statement by Susan Sontag (from her essay "A note on novels and films"): "Cinema is a kind of pan-art. It can use, incorporate, engulf virtually any other art: the novel, poetry, theater, painting, sculpture, dance, music, architecture. Unlike opera. which is a (virtually) frozen art-form, the cinema is and has been a fruitfully conservative medium of ideas and styles of emotion. All the trappings of melodrama and high emotion may be found in the most recent and sophisticated cinema (for example, Visconti's "Senso" and "Rocco and His Brothers"), while these have been banished from most recent sophisticated novels."

I'd like to make the observation that "Everlasting Moments" is about the birth of media consciousness, of people who are learning to see themselves in terms of photography (which is a new medium when the film is set). But it is a film that is done with an almost mystical tactility, without any sense of irony, and without a trace of post-modern hyperconsciousness. It's almost like confronting a different mindset, and even in the favorable reviews there has been the condescension of dealing with the sensibility of Jan Troell, who is the mystical artisan of cinema (and one who, as much as possible, does it all: he writes or co-writes, directs, photographs and edits his films himself, and not on some little experimental scale, but on a huge epic scale, as he has done ever since "Here's Your Life" in 1966). Jan Troell is what Werner Herzog always pretends to be. (Herzog can't help it, he now always has that ironic edge, as he showed in "Encounters at the End of the World".) And it is this utterly serious approach to the premodernist sensibility (and it should be noted that all of Troell's best films have been set in the past, usually in the era of the first quarter of the 20th century: "Here's Your Life", "The Emigrants", "The New Land", "Flight of the Eagle", "Hamsun", "As White as in Snow" and now "Everlasting Moments").

I'll try to write more, and i certainly want to write about "Tokyo Sonata", but i wanted to say that this year's edition of New Directors/New Films is one of the best in many, many years.